ZENICA, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Reuters) - Italy won 10 internationals in a row for the first time in their 109-year history when goals from Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti gave them a 3-0 victory at Bosnia & Herzegovina in a lop-sided Euro 2020 qualifier on Friday.
The Italians, who were already assured of advancing, top Group J with a maximum 27 points and were joined by second-placed Finland (18 points) who earlier reached their first major tournament with a 3-0 home win over Liechtenstein.
The result meant coach Roberto Mancini improved on Vittorio Pozzo’s run of nine straight wins between 1938 and 1939.
“Let’s remember that he won five trophies with the national team so there is still a long road ahead,” said Mancini, who took over after Italy missed out on last year’s World Cup and has overseen a remarkable turnaround.
“Of course, I’m pleased to have bettered a legend such as him.”
Under Pozzo, Italy won the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, the 1936 Olympic Games as well as the now defunct Central European International Cup twice.
Italy’s current streak includes a friendly win over the United States followed by nine matches in Euro 2020 qualifying so far. They finish by hosting Armenia on Monday.
Bosnia dropped to fifth on 10 points and, while Finland’s victory dashed any slim hopes they had of finishing in the top two, the Balkan country can still progress to next year’s tournament via the Nations League playoffs in March.
With Finland’s success reducing the Bosnia-Italy game to a dead rubber, it was played at walking pace for long spells but the gulf in class was apparent as defender Acerbi fired the visitors ahead with a fine individual effort in the 21st minute.
Insigne doubled Italy’s lead with a bouncing shot on the turn in the 37th, while goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Bosnia’s Ermin Bicakcic and Adnan Kovacevic with a pair of excellent saves at the other end.
Disgruntled home fans treated Belotti to a standing ovation after the striker made it 3-0 with a spectacular 53rd-minute goal, as he took a through ball in his stride and beat Ibrahim Sehic with a thunderbolt from 18 metres.
“If I had to find a problem, it’s that in the final 15 minutes we dropped a bit deep,” said Mancini. “When we are tired, we need to hold the ball and make the opposition run.”
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic and Brian Homewood; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris